40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Review: "The Graduate"

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is home from school and unsure of his future. His parents want him to start his graduate studies; he wants to do nothing.

Mike Nichols' 1967 film The Graduate is a fine piece of filmmaking, with a smart script that seems to occupy a space slightly out of normal time. The war in Vietnam was raging, anti-war protesters were out in force, free love was being explored in San Francisco, and the civil rights movement was about to lose Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy to the bullets of assassins. In Benjamin Braddock's world, his only concern is getting quality time in his family's pool.

Ben's aimless idling is about to change: following a party at his parent's house, the wife of the business partner of Benjamin's dad, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) asks Ben to drive her home. He's reluctant to, but finally agrees. When they pull up to the Robinson home, Mrs. Robinson asks Ben to come in with her, to keep her company until her husband (Murray Hamilton, who earlier offers Ben a great piece of advice: "Plastics!") gets home. Benjamin is all nervous tics and jitters around Mrs. Robinson. She offers him a drink, puts on some music, and opens up about her unhappy marriage. Benjamin wants to know if she's trying to seduce him. "Would you like me to seduce you?" Yes, he would, thank you, and the two begin an affair.

The screenplay, by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, is peppered with witty dialog. It's actually a very funny film. The film has aged a bit, at least in concept, and the idea of a younger man having an affair with an older woman (although Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft were only six years apart in age) isn't as scandalous as it once was.

The film has some great music from Simon and Garfunkel, songs that haven't aged, and are just as good today as they were in 1967.

Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson end their affair, right about the time that the Robinson's daughter, Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), comes home to visit from college. Benjamin is asked by Mr. Robinson to take Elaine out. Mrs. Robinson is not very keen at the idea and warns Benjamin not to do it. Benjamin ignores her advice, and before long, he's in love (or so he thinks) with Elaine.

Elaine finds out about Benjamin's affair with her mother, and isn't very happy about it: her mother had told her Benjamin had raped her. Benjamin is determined to win her back. After some time he discovers Elaine is going to get married, and with that marriage ceremony, with have one of the most famous endings in the movies: Benjamin, at the church, pounding on a large glass wall, with Elaine abruptly running away from her groom to join Benjamin, as the two get away in a bus.

While The Graduate has dated a bit, it's still an entertaining film with a great cast, creative direction from Mike Nichols, and a great screenplay and soundtrack. Recommended.

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